Rosario Dawson Is Ahsoka Tano In “The Mandalorian”!

By a bizarre coincidence, the same day that Ahsoka Tano made her hotly-anticipated return to The Clone Wars in the series’ final season, news also broke that the former Jedi warrior would make her very first live-action appearance in the second season of The Mandalorian on the Disney+ streaming platform. The report, since verified by a number of other sources and trades, states that actress Rosario Dawson will portray Tano in the Star Wars spinoff, which will find Pedro Pascal’s titular Mandalorian and his adorable sidekick Baby Yoda hunting for the few living Jedi spread out across the galaxy in the aftermath of the Empire’s fall.

Ahsoka Tano
polygon.com

Obviously, Ahsoka Tano is exactly the type of character one would expect to run into the duo, so the fact that she’s showing up isn’t surprising at all (especially considering that Dave Filoni created Ahsoka’s character for The Clone Wars and is now part of The Mandalorian‘s creative team). Along with Luke Skywalker (and possibly the oft-forgotten Yaddle), Ahsoka is one of only a couple of Jedi who were still around during the time period between the fall of the Empire and the beginning of the sequel trilogy. But now that she’s supposedly making her live-action debut, the reaction has been…mixed, to say the least.

That’s not because people dislike Ahsoka. The optimistic, idealistic Jedi started out as Anakin Skywalker’s opinionated apprentice and went on to become a nuanced, introspective character betrayed by her own faith. Forced to survive on her own without friends or family, Ahsoka quickly became one of the Star Wars franchise’s most beloved heroines. The controversy surrounding this casting has everything to do with the actress chosen to play the coveted part.

Rosario Dawson, best known for her roles in Daredevil, Rent and Alexander (and for being the girlfriend of 2020 Presidential hopeful Cory Booker, whose campaign she endorsed), was the subject of a shocking lawsuit last year: an openly transgender man employed as a handyman by Dawson and her mother, and charged with renovating the family’s Los Angeles home, claimed that both women subjected him to verbal and physical abuse, which included repeatedly misgendering and mocking him. Their harassment of him apparently culminated in Dawson and her mother restraining the man while beating him up and threatening to kill his pet cat, before allegedly stealing his cellphone. The victim claims all of these events had to do with his gender identity, and the case, if verified, would incriminate Dawson as a violent aggressor guilty of a serious hate crime.

Rosario Dawson
slashfilm.com

As of yet, there is no other evidence to suggest that Dawson is transphobic, and we only know a little about her views on the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. The alleged victim was said to have been close with the Dawson family before coming out as transgender, when they only knew him as a lesbian woman, and this year, Dawson appeared to come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself. However, the allegation has had long-lasting impacts, and has made the casting of Ahsoka Tano a tumultuous and hostile occasion rather than a joyous one, as it should have been (and probably could have been, with any other actress). Unfortunately, even (or perhaps, especially) if no further evidence comes out against her, there’s simply no way of determining whether Rosario Dawson is transphobic or did commit a hate crime, and so this case will loom over The Mandalorian like a dark cloud. What with the show having just recently united Star Wars fans in their love for Baby Yoda, it would be a shame to disunite the fandom once again over something as serious as this.

What do you think of the casting of Rosario Dawson? Would you have cast someone else in the role of Ahsoka Tano, and how would you feel if the gentle, lovable character was played by someone who may or may not have committed serious crimes (for reference, I’d be really angry and disappointed)? Share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

“Loki” Photos Could Reveal TVA, Lady Loki And More!

The Loki series on Disney+, which will follow the trickster god on a journey through space and time, recently revealed an exceedingly brief snippet of teaser-trailer footage that got the entire Loki fan community talking about the Asgardian sorcerer’s connections to an obscure group of Marvel Comics characters known as the Time Variance Authority, or TVA – now, newly-released behind-the-scenes photos show Loki and the TVA teaming up, as well as the possible introduction of one of two (technically three, but we’ll get to that) Marvel characters that fans have been longing to see onscreen for a while now.

The photos, which surfaced on Twitter, reveal Loki and a number of Time Variance Authority special agents walking through the rain in what could be a park or a field. Loki himself wears a police detective uniform, and a badge of some sort: though this one is gold rather than red, it is likely similar to the symbol of the TVA that was emblazoned upon his prison garb, which we saw in the teaser trailer. It’s impossible to say for certain whether this means that Loki will be imprisoned by the TVA first and then weasel his way into their good graces and start working for them (which sounds very Loki), or if it means he’ll work for the TVA first and then betray them and get landed in prison when a better deal comes along (which also sounds very Loki).

Walking alongside Loki and his band of soldiers (who appear to be wearing various articles of armored clothing from different time periods, including what could possibly be modified German Second World War uniforms), is a man dressed in a long blue raincoat with his hood pulled up over his face. Despite that, it’s not implausible to guess that this man could be Owen Wilson, who was cast in a top-secret role for the series. Fans have been wondering whether Wilson could be playing a major Marvel villain like Kang the Conqueror, but if this is him in these photos, I feel pretty confident saying that he’s playing Justice Peace, the head of the TVA and one of its greatest agents. Kang the Conqueror isn’t the type of character to sport a pencil mustache, trousers and brown loafers: Justice Peace is, and seems more like the type of comedic, zany character that Wilson would be asked to play, anyway.

If that is the case, however, it raises the question of why Marvel would go to such lengths to keep Peace a secret. Perhaps they have larger plans in store for him, or perhaps Peace will be revealed to be someone else entirely? Keep an eye on him, is all I’m saying.

Finally, we have a photo of a woman standing alone, who is almost certainly Sophia Di Martino, one of the first actresses to join the cast alongside Tom Hiddleston as Loki. She has short blond hair, and, though her pose and winter-jacket make it hard to see much of her costume, it’s undeniable that she’s wearing some sort of golden pendant or collar, and the rest of her outfit (what’s visible, anyway) appears to be dark green in color. We have no idea who Di Martino is playing yet, but this photo might have a bunch of clues.

Lady Loki/Enchantress
Twitter | @hiddlesgold

The green and gold color-scheme is shared by at least two characters in Marvel’s Asgard mythos: Loki, who wore his classic green-and-gold armor in The Avengers, and Enchantress, a powerful and usually villainous sorceress.

Enchantress is one of those characters who has multiple versions in the comics, with the two most notable being Amora, the original, and significantly more popular, iteration; and Sylvie Lushton, a human Oklahoman girl who gained magical powers through an encounter with Loki. While most fans would probably rather see the Amora version, an unconfirmed addition made to IMDb today could point towards Sylvie being the Enchantress we see in the Loki series: Cailey Fleming, a child actress, has supposedly been added to the series cast in the role of “Young Sylvie”.

Enchantress, no matter which other name she goes by, is almost always depicted as a blond woman wearing green and gold, and almost always has a connection to Loki in some way or another, whether as an ally or enemy. However, the possibility remains that Di Martino is playing neither Amora nor Sylvie Lushton, but could instead be portraying Lady Loki.

Loki, in the comics, is gender-fluid, something I’ve written about previously, and something which is rumored to be a factor in this new series. And even though Di Martino doesn’t strongly resemble Hiddleston, it’s been reported that she could be playing the female version of Loki. She’s blond in this new image, but she might just be waiting for a long black wig. And what we can see of her outfit looks very much like how Lady Loki dresses in the comics: the green is darker than Enchantress’ hallmark green, and gold jewelry is beloved by both Loki and Lady Loki. If that’s the case, then this could be our first look at gender-fluid representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What do you think? Are these images indicative of anything, or should we wait for context before we jump to conclusions? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Loki” Could Expand Gender Diversity In The MCU!

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had an often uncomfortable relationship with the LGBTQ+ community (and recently, specifically the transgender community), things are looking up for the future, as new reports suggest that the upcoming Loki Disney+ series could feature not only a gender-fluid star, but a transgender supporting character. This would be a groundbreaking step forward if either rumor is accurate, and could pave the way for more diversity in future Marvel films and TV properties.

"Loki" Could Expand Gender Diversity In The MCU! 1
express.co.uk

The Loki series recently began production, with star Tom Hiddleston (who, of course, plays the traditionally male trickster god and sorcerer, Loki) sharing a brief video of himself performing some high-flying stunts for an action sequence. In the MCU, Loki has only ever been a male, but while you may think that Loki’s comics-canon gender-fluidity is something that would have come up in the movies already if it were also film-canon, there have been multiple rumors that suggest Loki could shift back and forth between genders throughout the duration of the show, with Hiddleston portraying their male side, and an actress (possibly Yesterday‘s Sophia Di Martino) taking on the role of Lady Loki. It’s worth noting that the Loki we’ll see in this show is the Loki who escaped into an alternate universe during the events of Avengers: Endgame, armed with the Space Stone and possibly a method of time-travel – this isn’t the same Loki we’ve grown accustomed to in the years since 2012’s The Avengers: this is an almost completely different iteration of the character, one who might be more comfortable with their gender-fluidity, and/or more likely to come out. The show, which is also rumored to include magical Marvel villains like Amora the Enchantress, could pose a problem that requires Loki to switch between genders in order to get out of harm’s way. Who knows? There’s any number of reasons why this crucial aspect of Loki’s character is only just being seen onscreen now (and there’s still no official confirmation that it is), and we’ll just have to wait and see which one Marvel decides upon.

As for the other rumor, that a transgender actress will play an openly transgender character in the series, this is one that has been tossed around for a while: the character in question, a transwoman named Sera, was initially rumored to make her MCU debut in Thor: Love And Thunder, but new updates suggest that she will, instead, have a major supporting role in Loki – Sera is one of only a handful of transgender characters in Marvel comics, and her story is one that’s always been linked to Marvel’s Norse pantheon: born a male angel in the kingdom of Heven, Sera transitioned at a young age and was rescued from her dismal life by Thor’s long-lost sister Angela, who soon became Sera’s girlfriend. Considering that we’ve already had one of Thor’s long-lost sisters show up in the MCU, it seems a bit of a stretch to assume that we’re now going to introduce another one, which leads me to believe that either (a) Angela will not appear, and Sera’s storyline will be very different from the comics, or (b) Marvel will replace Angela with Hela, and have the popular villain return, only to find true love. That might sound absurd, but Sera does have a connection to Hela in the comics that, with a lot of just a little tampering could be the base for a solid love-story, I guess? I mean, it’s not like Hela tortured and imprisoned Sera or anything, right?

*she totally did, by the way*

Sera’s inclusion in the series is said to be the stepping stone towards a role in future MCU movies, which probably includes Thor: Love And Thunder, where, completely coincidentally, she’d likely cross paths with the bisexual Queen of Asgard, Valkyrie (who, completely coincidentally, is said to be looking for a partner in the film). So maybe instead of falling for any of Thor’s sisters, heroic, villainous or otherwise, Sera will end up with a very different but no less iconic member of the Thor mythos.

The other notable thing about this is that Sera is said to be played by a transgender actress – meaning that all that controversy earlier this year about Marvel president Kevin Feige tip-toeing around the subject of transgender representation, confirming it and immediately walking it back, could have a happy ending. All that being said, none of this is yet confirmed by Marvel or Disney. So keep your expectations measured, at least for right now.

What do you think? Will Loki and Sera be gender-fluid and transgender, respectively, in the Loki series, and how do you think the Marvel fandom will take this news, if it turns out to be true? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

America Chavez Will Appear In “Doctor Strange 2”!

It’s long been suspected that the Young Avengers team, an iconic and diverse line-up of teen and young adult superheroes from Marvel Comics, would someday join the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and in a few short months, those suspicions have been confirmed by one announcement after another, until now it’s simply a matter of time before the entire team is assembled onscreen. Today, yet another Young Avenger is rumored to be appearing in the MCU, and, assuming these rumors turn out to have any truth to them, it looks like the team is very nearly complete.

America Chavez Will Appear In "Doctor Strange 2"! 2
marvel.com

In the comics, the most established roster of Young Avengers includes archer extraordinaire Kate Bishop (confirmed to be a lead character in the upcoming Hawkeye Disney+ series), reality-warping Wiccan and his self-explanatory twin brother Speed (rumored to be introduced in WandaVision on Disney+), shapeshifter Hulkling (currently being cast for an appearance in WandaVision), child sorcerer Loki (likely being cast for the Loki Disney+ series), size-altering Cassie Lang (already an MCU character, and now the perfect age to join the team, thanks to Avengers: Endgame‘s time shenanigans), super-strong Patriot (a bit of a question mark right now, but a possible supporting character for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier on Disney+), and universe-hopping America Chavez, whom new rumors suggest will be a key player in Doctor Strange And The Multiverse Of Madness, one of next year’s biggest Marvel releases.

The sequel to Doctor Strange’s origin film will likely involve the Sorcerer Supreme traveling through the many branches of the Multiverse (of madness) on his next adventure, and it’s not too surprising that he would encounter Chavez, who hails from an alternate reality known as the Utopian Parallel and has the ability to move through the Multiverse (of madness) using magical, star-shaped portals. A teenage Hispanic girl is apparently being cast to play the character, who will likely be one of the MCU’s first Hispanic heroines, and, if Marvel follows the comics with any sort of accuracy, their first LGBTQ+ Hispanic heroine as well. Not only is Chavez herself openly gay, but she was also raised by two mothers who sacrificed themselves trying to close a black hole that threatened their peaceful universe. Hopefully we get to see all of this onscreen, and not have it be merely alluded to (like, you know, every other supposedly LGBTQ+ character that Marvel has introduced thus far).

If Chavez does show up, she’ll probably be very helpful to Doctor Strange, who is going to need to traverse various obstacles and explore dangerous new worlds on his journey through the space-time continuum. Other companions of his may include faithful sidekick Wong, as well as Scarlet Witch and her son, Wiccan. This is just conjecture, but if Wiccan and America Chavez both show up in the same movie together, they could forge a friendship that will become the core dynamic of the Young Avengers.

So what do you think of Chavez possibly entering the MCU, and what will her role be in the Doctor Strange sequel? Who do you want to be cast as the young heroine? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Why “Star Wars”‘ LGBTQ+ Representation Is A Crushing Disappointment.

Minor SPOILERS For Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Ahead!

Why "Star Wars"' LGBTQ+ Representation Is A Crushing Disappointment. 3
twitter.com

First up, an apology: in my Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Spoiler Review, I made the fictitious claim that a couple depicted kissing near the end of the movie was a lesbian couple. There is, in fact, no clear indication of the sexual orientations of either Commander Larma D’Acy or her partner – they could be lesbian, but there’s also nothing to suggest they aren’t pansexual, bisexual, or a different sexual orientation entirely. And that is part of the problem with Star Wars‘ small, misguided attempt at LGBTQ+ representation.

For years now, but especially since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, fans of the series have been urging Disney Studios and Lucasfilm to introduce meaningful LGBTQ+ representation into the franchise – emphasis on “meaningful”, as in: an LGBTQ+ character with an established identity, whom audiences actually know and care about. Star Wars has long been near the forefront of the push for diversity in genre fiction, much fellow sci-fi series Star Trek (which, overall, has actually done a better job, though not always with LGBTQ+ representation specifically): even back in the 70’s and 80’s, Star Wars was including women (or rather, two white women) in positions of power and strength, and including dynamic and complex people of color (or rather, one person of color) in the central narrative. The prequel trilogy gave us memorable characters such as Mace Windu, Padmé Amidala, and Jango Fett, while also introducing a number of other problems; the racially insensitive Gungans, the racially insensitive Neimoidians, and the fact that Jango Fett’s army of clones were little more than expendable cannon fodder, among them. The Disney-produced sequel trilogy, on the other hand, started off with a female protagonist, alongside prominent black and Latino characters – naturally, it seemed like the perfect place to try and include some LGBTQ+ representation.

And it’s not like there wasn’t room in the story for that representation to emerge in a natural, organic method. Fans have long sensed an undercurrent of semi-romantic tension between Star Wars leads Finn (played by John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and even the actors themselves have made it pretty clear that they would have had no problems if the story had headed in that direction. Boyega himself has been a bit back-and-forth on the subject, and has made friendly jokes about the pairing, while also suggesting that he doesn’t “know how that would work”. But nobody has been onboard with the popular coupling like Oscar Isaac, who has been the unofficial voice of the LGBTQ+ Star Wars fanbase for years: at first, his support seemed like the typical sort of vague hand-waving, with comments like “Poe’s open to any kind of adventure”, but starting this year, the actor has been avidly on the side of Finnpoe fans: “I think he takes his love for Finn very seriously”, Isaac said of his character at Star Wars: Celebration. Since then, he’s noted that a gay romance between the two would be “a great way for the story to go”, admitted that “if they would’ve been boyfriends, that would have been fun”, and just yesterday confessed that, though he tried to advocate behind-the-scenes for a love story between the two men, “Disney overlords were not ready to do that”. Isaac’s strong approval is encouraging, but unfortunately, he’s only an actor and can’t really do much to influence the film’s scripts.

And yet, Rise Of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams himself has revealed that the diversity of Star Wars‘ ensemble cast is supposedly very important to him, and that he felt it necessary that it be increased in the franchise’s final chapter. “And in the case of the LGBTQ community,” he noted, “it was important to me that people who go to see this movie feel that they’re being represented in the film”. When pressed on the issue, Abrams commented with vague assurance that “I did just say what I just said”.

Abrams’ comments should sound eerily (auto-correct suggested wearily, which also works) familiar to fans who may remember Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo saying virtually the same thing about the LGBTQ+ representation in their blockbuster hit back in April: “It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them…it is a perfect time, because one of the things that is compelling about the Marvel Universe moving forward is its focus on diversity”.

The similarities don’t stop there, though, because when it comes down to it, the LGBTQ+ representation in both films is also strangely identical. In Endgame, a minor, unnamed character played by Joe Russo himself, mentions dating another man in a throwaway line: this character has no purpose in the story, nor any significance beyond being gay, and is only shown this one time – the fact that he’s played by Joe Russo also makes the moment into a surprising cameo, distracting attention from the significance of his words. In Star Wars, the crucial representation is even less noticeable, though technically more significant: here, Commander Larma D’Acy, a minor character portrayed by Amanda Lawrence, is shown kissing another woman in an exceedingly brief moment – due to taking place in a crowd shot, during an emotional scene, you could easily watch the film without even noticing that you had just witnessed LGBTQ+ history. And I’m left wondering…was that the point?

A same-sex kiss of any kind is a strikingly powerful statement in a big franchise film such as this one, but Disney’s use of the kiss feels cheap, as if it’s reducing what should be important into a meaningless moment that, on the surface, looks like great representation. The audience has no emotional attachment to D’Acy and especially not to her girlfriend, who isn’t even named in the film (the newest Star Wars Visual Dictionary apparently does give her a name: Wrobbie Tryce). They have no reason to care about these two women or their two-second long relationship – and since the characters are so minor, and so deliberately overshadowed by other, more important characters, audiences don’t even have any good reason to notice them or their kiss. If it had been Finn and Poe kissing, even if only for two seconds or one, you would notice because it’s Finn and Poe: they’re lead characters, and the audience is familiar with them. Two extras somewhere in a crowd shot? Not so much.

Disney has just proven that simply including a gay kiss isn’t enough to constitute meaningful representation. People around the world have been rightfully outraged, since the film’s release, that this moment was what Abrams was referring to when he claimed that LGBTQ+ representation was one of his priorities when making The Rise Of Skywalker.

And here’s the thing: Abrams didn’t need to put LGBTQ+ representation into the film at all. As far as we know, this was his decision: nobody was forcing him to do it. And that should be applauded, because it is a step forward. What shouldn’t be applauded is the fact that Abrams, knowing full well just how brief and insignificant the kiss was, went around claiming that the two-second snippet of footage could or would make up for all of the lost opportunities with the Finnpoe relationship, or even amount to anything more than what it was – a two-second snippet of footage. Why not just admit upfront that there would be a small nod to the LGBTQ+ community, without stirring up more controversy and trouble for himself?

Because this is queer-baiting 101. Queer-baiting refers to the process of luring LGBTQ+ audiences to consume a product, be it a movie, TV show, book, etc, with the promise or hint of LGBTQ+ representation, only to reveal that there was little to no representation to begin with. Endgame was heavily criticized for queer-baiting, prompting the Russo Brothers to respond with the claim, as yet unverified, that more major Marvel characters will come out as LGBTQ+ in future movies. 2017’s Beauty And The Beast faced queer-baiting critiques after an “exclusively gay” scene hyped up in the film’s pre-release marketing turned out to be a single shot of two male characters dancing. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald was one of those especially awful cases where a director actually tells the truth and goes on record to say that a character will not be depicted as LGBTQ+ in his movie, only to have his working partner release a tweet disputing that claim – the latter being J.K. Rowling, who apparently didn’t realize she was lying, or simply didn’t care: the promised LGBTQ+ representation in that case actually referred to a single line of dialogue with only slightly gay connotations.

And now Star Wars faces those same complaints, for good reason. By promising something he couldn’t deliver, Abrams dug himself into his own grave. He wasn’t obliged to make any statement at all, but he did – and now he’s paying the price, as audiences riot against the director.

What could he have done to rectify the situation? Well, the easiest solution would have been to make D’Acy and her partner more prominent in the film. If that would have taken time away from the main cast, then why not have it be one of the main cast who turns out to be gay? Finn and Poe are literally right there. But if neither option was viable, then Abrams should simply have kept his mouth shut and not said anything at all. His idea of representation is outdated and honestly offensive, making it an unnecessarily problematic element in a movie that already has plenty of those.

I really don’t want to make a scene, and we know Larma D’Acy wouldn’t want me to (that’s her only significant line in two movies: you thought I wasn’t going to use it in some way?): I wish I could simply talk about how nobody, no matter how far away their galaxy is, should have to live with a name with Wrobbie – or Larma, for that matter. But I can’t stay silent when directors and filmmakers continue to shamelessly bait and trap LGBTQ+ audiences, taking their money in exchange for empty, unfulfilled promises. Hollywood is making progress, or at least, I hope that they are: Disney is making a big deal out of having their first openly gay character in next year’s Jungle Cruise (though the fact that the character is played by a straight comedian and described by test audiences as “hugely effete” isn’t exactly encouraging), and Marvel has promised their first gay character in The Eternals – rumored to be the demigod Phastos, a happily married man with children. But until these claims are backed up by hard facts (i.e. the films themselves), be wary of could be just another queer-baiting incident.

For now, let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that, no matter how briefly their relationship may be depicted onscreen, Larma D’Acy and Wrobbie Tryce are, canonically, Star Wars‘ very first same-sex couple, and the two characters deserve a little more respect and congratulatory praise than they received from J.J. Abrams. Hopefully they’ll be joined in the near future by a number of other LGBTQ+ characters: ones who aren’t betrayed by their own creators.

“Frozen 2” Non-Spoiler Review!

The franchise that began with one great song, a few boatloads of in-your-face Disney Magic (read: Olaf-themed merchandise), and a couple of warm hugs along the way has grown up significantly over the past six years, and will presumably continue to grow as it evolves – Frozen 3 isn’t exactly inevitable, but it’s far from implausible. To reflect the fact that its audience has matured both physically and mentally, Frozen 2 branches off in an unexpected direction: at a time when it feels like every franchise is trying to cash in on nostalgia, Frozen 2 has a different message for kids and adults alike, one that is more interesting and more powerful: the past informs our future, but it doesn’t define it.

"Frozen 2" Non-Spoiler Review! 4
eonline.com

You might be tempted to laugh, and in the confines of a non-spoiler review I won’t be able to give sufficient evidence to back up my claims, I know. After all, Disney has teased a similar message before, and then walked it back – wasn’t it Star Wars‘ very own Kylo Ren who told us to let go of the past, “kill it if you have to”, not long before Disney introduced the world to the thrilling story of a Boba Fett-lookalike and his Baby Yoda sidekick, and started promoting The Rise Of Skywalker, which reveals that characters like Lando Calrissian and Emperor Palpatine are all on their way back to the big screen? Yes. But in Frozen 2, change and progress are real, obvious, and important to the story, whereas in franchises like Star Wars it sometimes seems like more of a charade.

Almost as soon as the movie opens, this theme is being foreshadowed – while everybody in the cheerful Norwegian city of Arendelle is getting together to sing “Some Things Never Change” (told you it’s obvious), only Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) is feeling out of place and isolated among her own people: her realization, that things do change – and, in fact, need to change – is at once startlingly relieving. I would say Frozen 2 is all about change, transformation, the metamorphosis of the soul: basically if the hit song “Let It Go” from the first Frozen was an entire movie – speaking of which, Elsa has a few more power-ballads to belt out this time around, and all of them are extraordinary. At the same time, there are frequent, if mostly humorous, ruminations on the concept of mortality and permanence. Even Olaf (Josh Gad), the happiest snowman in Scandinavia, is feeling the passage of time and gets his very own song about the subject, “When I Am Older”, that sums up his feelings on the matter in a funny, philosophical way.

But change isn’t something to be afraid of – it can also make the world a better place. It’s the change we see happening both onscreen and behind the scenes all the time: for instance, the stark contrast between movies like 1995’s Pocahontas and Frozen 2 (which deals with a very similar concept at its core, surprising as that may seem), is only made possible by decades of change: slow, sometimes, but steady.

Some things really don’t change, though: for one, the fact that Elsa and Anna (Kristen Bell) are still two of Disney’s most emotionally complex characters, despite being denied the official Disney Princess title (though, depending on how long some of Frozen 2‘s most significant developments have been in place, I can almost identify a very good reason for why neither woman was given that honor. Let’s just say, both Elsa and Anna have much bigger things in store for them. Elsa continues to be a relatable role model for people of all walks of life, but especially members of the LGBTQ+ community (who have identified with her and embraced her since 2013): while she’s never given her own “exclusively gay” moment, she is still Disney’s most undeniably queer-coded heroine. Her journey in Frozen 2 takes her from being an outcast (and the sole introvert in a city where apparently everybody gets together for group singalongs on the weekend), to being, well, something else entirely. Her younger sister Anna is still as lovably optimistic and chipper as she was in the first movie, but also more understanding of Elsa’s struggle, more capable of handling her own problems, and more aware of the world around her – up to a point. There’s a running gag in the movie about Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) trying to have a romantic moment with Anna, which keeps going south when she misconstrues his intentions and thinks he’s trying to break up with her: but it only keeps happening because Anna herself jumps to the weirdest conclusions, to the point where I had to wonder if she was making excuses to get away from Kristoff intentionally.

But even though a couple of jokes here and there don’t land quite as well as they might have, the movie is, overall, very funny. Much of the humor is based off making fun of the previous movie, just as Frozen itself made fun of other Disney Princess movie tropes: here, we have gems such as Elsa cringing at the sound of her breakout hit “Let It Go”, and Olaf hilariously recapping the first film’s events – not to mention several humorous references to Frozen‘s despicable villain, Prince Hans of the Southern Isles – in this movie, despite never actually appearing in person, he gets mocked, made fun of, and turned into a snowball. But at the same time, Frozen 2 reaches Pixar levels of sad – as in, there are three heart-crushing scenes, all of which we will discuss in the spoiler review.

What about the music? What is most shocking about the film’s soundtrack is that, while the songs vary greatly in style, they are all consistently great. Elsa gets a very gay, very sparkly anthem of empowerment – it’s amazing. Kristoff has his very own melodramatic, angsty 80’s rock ballad with reindeer backup singers – it’s weirdly wonderful. There’s no “Fixer-Upper” on this soundtrack: almost every song feels like it has the potential to be a new “Let It Go”. Strangely, though, it is “Into The Unknown”, the film’s most hyped-up musical number, that made possibly the least impression on me in the theater.

In conclusion, Frozen 2 is very much worth seeing – it’s a movie full of heart and real emotional weight that arrives at a time when Disney and all film studios are under attack for supposedly worshiping the past, never making original content, blindly rebooting, remaking and redoing dead franchises without concern for art form. Frozen 2 is an ode to progress and substantive change, and a clear message to embrace the future with open arms. If you can take a moment in between musical numbers to go into the unknown on a spiritual journey of your own, I encourage you to do so.

"Frozen 2" Non-Spoiler Review! 5
animationmagazine.net

But…if you’re just there for the music, that’s great too, and I don’t blame you. Let It Go, dear reader, and may you have a wonderful time at the movies. Just don’t expect to be entirely unchanged by your film-going experience.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10

Disney+ Cancels Muppets Series (And More!)

Amidst all the good news about the upcoming Disney+ streaming platform, and its almost endless catalog of movies from Disney animation, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, thousands of episodes from Disney Channel TV shows, and its (mostly) new,  original content, there’s still some bad news. And, partially because it’s newsworthy, and partially because I’m still bitter at Disney+ for making me use the + symbol (why am I still mad about that?), we’re going to discuss the not-so-great headlines that last night began plaguing the Mouse House. It’s not just about Muppets, I can assure you.

However, the Muppets are the most important part of the equation, so we’ll talk about them first: Disney has officially chosen to scrap an idea for a Muppets comedy series posed to them by Josh Gad, star of Frozen and its upcoming sequel, Frozen 2. The project, titled Muppets Live Another Day, would have been a sequel to the 1984 hit, The Muppets Take Manhattan, taking place soon after the events of that film. Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis had already been brought onboard to help Gad write and produce the series: apparently, creative differences with Disney executives forced the three showrunners to leave – but now, instead of doing anything with the property, Disney+ has chosen to throw out the idea entirely. We don’t know anything about the disagreements that caused the rift, or whether this is because of Disney’s decision, announced recently at the D23 Expo, to reboot Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show: perhaps two would have been too much Muppet material for the streaming service? Either way, this does make one wonder whether Josh Gad will run into this problem again as he sets out to produce a live-action remake of Disney’s The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame – it’s not easy being Olaf.

At the same time, a smaller bombshell dropped: Disney has scrapped a comedy series titled Four Dads, which would have been their first property focused on LGBTQ characters – while this story hasn’t been making the rounds as much as the Muppets, it’s potentially more devastating. Disney’s commitment to diversity, and especially LGBTQ representation, is still weak: while a Love, Simon spinoff series based on the gay romance film of the same name is coming to Disney+, it is rumored to be significantly different from the film. And as for gay characters in Disney films, they’re few and far between (and when they do show up, they’re stereotypes: next year’s Jungle Cruise will mark the appearance of Disney’s first officially out gay character, portrayed by a straight actor – the character is rumored to be very campy, effeminate, and played for laughs: great work, Disney).

These aren’t the first Disney+ shows to get tossed in the trash. Back in August, it was reported that Book Of Enchantment, a series about the origins of iconic Disney villains such as Ursula, Maleficent, The Beast, and The Wicked Queen, was scrapped because the studio felt it was too dark, even after significant rewrites by Jason Reed, who apparently tried unsuccessfully to insert more humor into the show’s scripts. Personally, that whole idea sounded really cool, so I’m not forgiving Disney for this one – even if they do feel like Disney+ should be squeaky-clean: I mean, seriously, how dark could it have been?

The three cancellations may not have much in common, but it certainly looks like Disney has a very clear picture of what their streaming service should be: whether it’s a good picture is hard to tell. Will we end up missing these shows in the long run? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“Underwater” Trailer!

Kristen Stewart is once again taking the internet by storm, only a month or two after the Charlie’s Angels trailer spurred an online tidal wave of rabid praise and swooning for the actress, whether because of her fashion statements, her smile, her short hair, her yoga pants; this time, though, the Kristen Stewart fanbase is taking it a step further – in the first trailer for Underwater, their idol is not only the paragon of style in her big round glasses, but is also firmly establishing herself as one of the Greatest Actresses of this generation. I have yet to see the evidence (that’s because it’s so subtle, apparently), but I’ll give her this: those glasses alone make this trailer much more interesting – but not quite enough.

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what this film is supposed to be, but that might be because I’m so focused on the glasses that I wasn’t paying attention. I’ll take a wild guess it’s a horror thriller, but it can’t be that horrifying, because it’s still got a PG-13 rating. And is there a reason why the “monster” is being kept hidden? Shadowy glimpses of tentacles and some sort of vaguely frog-shaped silhouette are all well and good, but it’s not a lot to go on. And why is the submersible laboratory reminiscent of a sci-fi spaceship? Why do I feel like this is not an accurate representation of what it’s like to be a marine biologist?

And, most importantly, what is going on with the film’s logo? This is something that has continuously bothered me while watching and rewatching this trailer: the title font, which slowly, painstakingly, spells out the word Underwater in the most boring typeface I’ve ever seen, has nothing to do with the sensation of being underwater, and it doesn’t add anything to the film’s look, atmosphere or overall style. And yet it’s presented as if it’s so epic, it deserves to be part of the main action in the trailer – if they were going for that effect, why not at least present it on a background that has some water-ripple effects or something going on? It just looks like a missed opportunity to me.

I’m sorry, Kristen, but your performance simply isn’t as important as title-card layout. I feel like I nit-pick about the weirdest things in trailers sometimes, but this one had to be mentioned.

Honestly, the conversation about Stewart’s glasses has robbed the other actors in this trailer of any chance of recognition: I mean, seriously, are you going to completely ignore somebody like Mamoudou Athie, who gets, what, a single line of dialogue in the trailer – if even? You are? Well, that’s just unfair. I tell you, nobody stands a chance against Kristen Stewart these days: even in Charlie’s Angels, people were too busy obsessing over her haircut to even notice the incredible talent surrounding her, like Patrick Stewart and Naomi Scott. It’s the same here: that Lovecraftian sea-monster is going to take one look at her glasses and scamper back into whatever hellhole it issued from, because it knows it can never summon the Bisexual Energy™ that Kristen Stewart can.

What do you think of the first trailer for Underwater? Is Kristen Stewart too powerful to be stopped at this point? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 4/10

LGBTQ Diversity In Marvel Phase 4!

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe gears up for Phase 4, a variety of things have been revealed about the upcoming slate of movies and streaming shows they’ll be offering in the next two years: so far, we’ve got a general idea of what to expect from the fourth phase – it’s going to be absolutely insane, it’s going to be cosmic in scale, and it will be very diverse. Diverse in this case can mean two things: a general diversity of storytelling styles ranging from raw psychological thrillers (Black Widow) to absurdist comedies (Thor: Love And Thunder) – and a diversity of cast and crew, with an incredible number of minority groups being represented in mainstream superhero films. While a discussion about the diversity of filmmaking styles being used in Phase 4 would be very interesting and engrossing (Eternals will be shot on 16mm Ektachrome??), we’re going to focus on the latter meaning of the word for today’s post.

According to multiple outlets, Marvel may soon add a transgender superhero to its Phase 4 roster: an impressive roster already, one that includes at least three female directors, two or more female-led projects, Marvel’s first Asian-led film and Asian-American director, first deaf superheroine, and two or more LGBTQ characters.

While this new superhero’s name has not yet been revealed, it seems Marvel is looking for a transwoman actress to play her, under the code name “Jessica”. The rumors don’t even begin to suggest what film she might appear in, whether it’s one in Phase 4 or possibly Phase 5, which kicks off in 2022. Interestingly, though, this news story comes hard on the heels of speculation about one of Marvel’s other characters who might be on the LGBTQ spectrum – Ikaris.

Now, technically, in the comics, Ikaris is actually a straight cisgender male: but it seems that Marvel is looking to change that and possibly announce that Ikaris is a gay character – while, at the same time, Richard Madden, who will portray Ikaris in Eternals, will publicly come out as gay (there’s been lots of rumors about Madden himself in recent years). Talk about a publicity stunt! There’s just one thing that’s been nagging people about this: in the comics, Ikaris is probably most notable for his romance with the female sorceress Sersi, who has not yet been cast for Eternals: people have already begun to speculate that, since Ikaris might be gay, Sersi could be genderbent to be a male. This probably doesn’t have anything to do with the rumors about a transgender superhero, but it’s worth noting as another step forward for LGBTQ diversity (or is that a step forward? I can only imagine the controversy that would ensue if Sersi was genderbent to be a male).

As for who “Jessica” might be, it seems from the reports that she might be one of Marvel Comics’ only transgender characters – Sera, a supporting character in the Thor mythos: Sera started life as a male angel trapped within the Tenth Realm of Yggdrasil, but she identified as female; she was eventually rescued from her imprisonment by Thor’s sister Angela, who then became her love interest for a time. There’s a whole bunch of interesting stuff that could be done with the Tenth Realm, Heven, and the characters of Sera and Angela – not least of which is the possibility of Sera becoming the “queen” that bisexual heroine Valkyrie is apparently searching for in Thor: Love And Thunder. Unless that’s Angela? Or Jane Foster Thor? Jamie Alexander announced on Twitter last night that she wants to be Valkyrie’s queen, but, let’s face it, Lady Sif isn’t coming back.

LGBTQ Diversity In Marvel Phase 4! 6
nerdist.com

With so many possible LGBTQ storylines to choose from, which do you want Marvel to prioritize – and who else should come out in future movies? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

“Thor: Love And Thunder” Adds A New Thor!

That title possibly counts as clickbait. No, Chris Hemsworth is not being replaced in the role of the thunder-god Thor. But he will be joined by a new Thor in his upcoming fourth film, which was officially revealed last night at Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con presentation.

First of all, let’s just talk about the fact that the titles revealed at SDCC are some of the craziest, most over-the-top names I’ve ever heard – Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings; Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness; WandaVision. But it’s this one, Thor: Love And Thunder, that takes the cake and eats it too. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from director Taika Waititi, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let him be crazy, because he does it really well, and it’s brought about some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most memorable moments – like Jeff Goldblum strutting around in a sparkly gold bathrobe, or Cate Blanchett with antlers, or…literally everything in Thor: Ragnarok, honestly. But Waititi’s craziness also meant that, when he took over the Thor franchise, he basically had to change a lot of stuff in order to make it work for him – victims of his beautifully bizarre style included the Warriors Three, Odin, and Jane Foster.

Now, technically, Jane Foster’s sudden disappearance from the MCU wasn’t really his fault. Actress Natalie Portman had played the one-dimensional “scientist girlfriend” character in two films already, and had been reduced to a damsel in distress on multiple occasions. She was bored with the character, she had no interest in the stagnant franchise, and she wanted out. She got out. So out, in fact, that it was something of a miracle when she “appeared” in Avengers: Endgame via recycled footage from Thor: The Dark World, and was even given her own title-card in the film’s credits. It seemed almost like an apology to the character that Marvel had overlooked, ignored, and eventually had to scrap because of their creative mistakes. In Thor: Ragnarok, she didn’t even get that – just a brief line from Thor about how she had broken up with him, and that was it. It wasn’t long before the god of thunder was making eyes at Valkyrie, the alcoholic warrior goddess/mercenary.

Well, two things have happened since then: one, Valkyrie is now openly bisexual, and has no interest in Thor, despite his flirtatious advances. Actress Tessa Thompson has made that clear in the past, but she confirmed it onstage last night, with Marvel president Kevin Feige’s approval, and Feige commented afterwards that Valkyrie will indeed be in a relationship with another woman in Thor: Love And Thunder. In fact, Thompson suggested that Valkyrie will be actively searching for a Queen to rule alongside her as she leads the people of New Asgard into an uncertain future.

The other big thing? Oh yeah, Natalie Portman is returning to the MCU for Thor: Love And Thunder, and, oh right, she’s still playing Jane Foster but this is Jane Foster as female Thor, and, I almost forgot to mention, she can wield Mjolnir now, and I am honestly about to pass out.

It was shock-and-awe last night: when Natalie Portman came onstage to accept the Hammer of Thor from Taika Waititi, Marvel fans around the world were absolutely flabbergasted. Certain fans went online to cheer and applaud the brave decision; others went online to complain bitterly about feminists taking over the MCU. The reaction to this has been incredible to watch. It was easily one of the biggest highlights of the presentation: Portman is obviously excited to be back, and this time she (and we) can be assured that she’s not going to be anybody’s boring-love-interest-sidekick – nope, this time around, she’s a superhero in her own right. It remains to be seen whether or not Waititi will adapt some of the other aspects of Jane Foster’s character from the comics: specifically, the fact that she is diagnosed with cancer and eventually passes away. Waititi is capable of inserting powerful emotion into his generally funny stories, as the death of Odin in Thor: Ragnarok proves.

Finally, yes, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor will still be in the movie, though there’s not actually any confirmation of whether or not the “Thor” in the title refers to him or Lady Thor. We’ll presumably find out when the films arrives in theaters November 5th, 2021.

Disney Live-Action Remake News!

Unsurprisingly, Disney continues to churn out live-action remakes of all their beloved animated classics: this year alone, we’ve gotten modernized versions of Dumbo and Aladdin, and The Lion King will premiere a few weeks from now. Next year, we’ll get a live-action Mulan, and possibly The Little Mermaid, with Snow White arriving soon after. And as long as the Mouse House makes these movies, there will continue to be a loud opposition to this trend of redoing and revamping films that don’t technically need a 21st Century update – and, while the remake-resistance has been wrong before (Will Smith’s Genie looks like a Smurf!), they’re also often right about a lot of stuff, a lot of the time (Emma Watson can’t sing!).

Right now is one of those times. Let’s break down both big news stories that dropped, yesterday and today, and why this weekend is going to be a really stressful one for everybody at Disney.

First, yesterday’s news: even though the live-action The Little Mermaid is still a long way away, an actress has been cast to play the film’s villain, the sea-witch Ursula. That actress is…Melissa McCarthy.

Now don’t get me wrong, Melissa McCarthy is a great actress, she has been nominated for an Academy Award twice, and she can be both dramatic and funny. I was actually pleasantly surprised at first, when I heard she had become the first person to join the cast: it seemed like an instant win for all involved. McCarthy hasn’t been selling a lot of tickets recently, and The Little Mermaid needs a big name, just like Aladdin needed Will Smith. Then I started seeing the arguments against McCarthy’s casting, and I was dubious – I immediately assumed it was nothing more than the usual backlash towards any remake.

Disney Live-Action Remake News! 7
cosmopolitan.com

And then I decided to dig a little deeper, and I realized that there are a ton of valid complaints here:

  1. While Ursula was originally voiced by a white woman in the 1989 movie, the character has been changing in more recent iterations, with black actresses like Yvette Nicole Brown or Whoopi Goldberg playing or voicing her in the TV show Once Upon A Time and movie Descendants 2, respectively. The change inspired some to think that, in this live-action Little Mermaid, a woman of color would portray the iconic Disney villain – rappers Queen Latifah (who did a Disney-sponsored photoshoot in 2011 while dressed as the character) and Lizzo were both high up on most peoples’ fancasts, with Lizzo even getting in on the fun and dressing up as Ursula while performing “Poor Unfortunate Souls”. To make Ursula white again and reverse years of progress, seems like a slap in the face.
  2. It’s no secret that the original Ursula is a thinly-disguised – and, frankly, offensive – caricature of American drag queen Divine, and because of that the character has become something of a “gay-energy icon” in recent years, with many wanting to see her fully reclaimed in a more positive light by the LGBTQ+ community. As a nod to her origins, fans thought it would be fitting if the live-action version of the character was portrayed by a drag queen  – but apparently Disney isn’t ready to do something that bold, even though drag queens are fast becoming some of the most popular celebrities in America.
  3. Just as important as both of these points is the fact that Melissa McCarthy is not a singer. She has sung, yes, and she was once even part of a duet with Barbra Streisand herself – but her vocals aren’t all that impressive, and her singing style is pretty nondescript, nothing like the hugely over-the-top, charismatic voice of Pat Carroll’s original Ursula. Again, there are any number of more talented musicians who could have brought something truly fascinating to the part, and might even have warranted new songs being written specifically for the character: Queen Latifah, Lizzo, Lady Gaga, Adele, or Keala Settle all come to mind. Gaga and Adele have both won Oscars for their original music, too (and Gaga has also dressed as Ursula before).

Pretty much the only reason I can think of to cast McCarthy is because of her undeniable enthusiasm for body-positivity: Ursula’s cool confidence about her own image has made her an icon of body diversity (she’s an icon for a lot of people, I’ve learned). Maybe that’s something that Disney wants to lean into – maybe they want to use Ursula to address some important social issues. Then again, Disney is the same company that tried to slim down Ursula for their Disney Villain toy line in 2012. Is this a belated apology for that incident, or mere coincidence?

Whatever the reasoning might be for casting Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, what’s done is done. While the actress is apparently still in early talks, it looks like other, more promising, candidates for the role are admitting defeat, with Lizzo tweeting out a sad-face emoji in response to the news. The internet is pretty much unanimously outraged, and hopefully Disney rethinks their casting choice before it’s too late.

But today, Disney has only caused themselves even more pain and grief: a new report suggests that the live-action Mulan (which I’m actually looking forward to) will not include Mulan’s fire-breathing dragon sidekick, Mushu – instead, he will be replaced by a phoenix, something that Disney purists aren’t too thrilled about. Did I mention that there also won’t be any of the original songs that made the animated Mulan so good? No I’ll Make A Man Out Of You. No Reflection. No Honor To Us All. Just instrumental music.

Yeah, so…that’s all I’ve got for you today. I’m really interested to hear what you think? Do these things bother you? Are you excited for the live-action The Little Mermaid and Mulan? Expect more updates on both of these stories from Disney’s D23 event later this summer, and stay tuned!

“Tales Of The City” SPOILER Review!

I feel absurdly late to this party – the first Tales of the City series came out in 1993, and even this 2019 modernized reboot debuted weeks ago: but because it’s still Pride Month and I only just got around to watching the show, I’m going to trust my instincts, just as Anna Madrigal would say, and try to live by the “better late than never” mantra.

Obviously, SPOILERS AHEAD! If, like me, you haven’t watched Tales of the City yet (stop judging me), then beware! Back away! Avert your eyes!

And for those of you who finished the series ages ago, come on in! Let’s take a leisurely stroll up to 28 Barbary Lane and discuss what happened in a season full of twists, turns, surprises and shocking secrets. And, near the end of our little conversation here, allow me to explain why I think there should be a sequel.

Firstly, let’s talk in-depth about our main leads, specifically Shawna Hawkins (Ellen Page), Brian Hawkins (Paul Gross), Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney) and Michael Tolliver (Murray Bartlett). All of them had some great moments, and some genuinely cringeworthy ones, but only Brian and Mary Ann got to fill out a complete character arc, in my opinion, and that’s why they’re my favorites of the show’s leads – excluding Anna, we’ll get to her later. Brian was honestly my least-favorite after the first episode, where he proved himself to be a hypocritical and jealous lowlife who still held a grudge against his ex-wife Mary Ann, after she left San Francisco twenty years prior to start a business. I could even have understood his point of view, had he not been as aggressive as he was, and so over-zealously protective of his and Mary Ann’s daughter, Shawna. Mary Ann, on the other hand, was sympathetic but incredibly irritating; naive, exuberant, ever optimistic (even when the wheels snapped off her luggage carrier), and perpetually unable to sympathize or even understand anyone else’s opinions. The two characters have romantic tension, but their meeting leads to constant bickering and relentless melodrama – which is only exacerbated when Mary Ann discovers that Shawna doesn’t know she’s adopted. One thing leads to another, and before you know it Brian and Mary Ann are back together. That would have been lame and annoying had not the writers and actors done such a good job of portraying the changes in their characters: somehow, by the last few episodes, I found myself waiting for Brian to make jokes rather than start fights (and make jokes he did, providing some of the best comic relief).

Michael Tolliver, the more-than-slightly stereotypical “gay best friend”, takes up a lot of screentime but does basically nothing to move the plot forward, making his story something of a chore to get through. The episodes around the midpoint of the show try especially hard to focus on him for no reason whatsoever, probably only because the last part of the show barely even touches on his subplot. The series’ focus was far too wide in scope, as I mentioned in my non-spoiler review: with two main plots already going on, the subplots generally suffered from a lack of purpose. Tolliver was the most notable example since his story, unlike that of Jake and Margot (more on them later), didn’t even really touch on any of the show’s themes.

Then we come to Shawna. Shawna is undeniably meant to be the series’ heroine, its protagonist, our eyes into this new and beautiful world of LGBTQ+ culture – she doesn’t fit the bill, unfortunately. While Ellen Page is a good actress, her subdued, low-energy approach to the character only served to make Shawna unlikable and, frankly, boring. There were rare moments of levity, usually when Shawna had brief, frantic reunions with her mother, and the two would team up to do something bizarre and hilarious. And then Shawna would randomly turn on her mother, storm off, and descend into a brooding mope. This problem only became worse when Claire Duncan (Zosia Mamet) entered the picture and the two started dating – why these two actresses felt it was necessary to make what should have been the show’s central relationship into slow, angsty staring contests, I have no idea. Every time Shawna and Claire ran into each other, all semblance of energy and liveliness drained away from their already pretty lifeless characters: they would stare at each other, mumble, shuffle around with their hands in their pockets, and then Claire would say something that was clearly meant to be philosophical in an artsy way, but only came off as absurd.

Which is why Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) became very quickly the heroine of the show, at least for me. She starts off as the centerpiece of the entire story: the other characters might hate each other, but they all love her. The main leads all live at her apartment complex, 28 Barbary Lane. They all come together to celebrate her 90th birthday, which causes the chaos and confusion that follows. She’s not exactly an active character, but then none of the leads are, except in their own subplots – Anna seems even passive at first, when she is blackmailed into selling Barbary Lane: an action which has major ramifications on the plot, sending the others into a frenzy to find new housing. When we learn the truth of Anna’s past, and how she took money stolen from the LGBTQ+ community and used it to pay for surgery, a house, her entire existence – even there, she’s the passive character, as the money was all but forced on her by her distraught partner, Tommy. As a transgender woman in the 1960s, Anna survived only by isolating herself from the people who needed her most, refusing to speak up and take action against violence and oppression. Her entire story is built on her passivity – and she’s not proud of it. She is shamed and consumed with guilt: her arc is all about finding forgiveness, and she is finally allowed that peace when the LGBTQ+ community of San Francisco rallies to save Barbary Lane from demolition in the most heartwarming and powerful scene of the series. Anna passes away in her sleep not long after that: “Anna didn’t believe in coincidence,” Mary Ann says after her death, “so neither shall we.” The emotional sentiment is also used to explain how this diverse, dissimilar cast of characters all ended up under Anna’s protection.

The diverse supporting cast are, without a doubt, the highlight of the entire show. The most relevant are Jake (Garcia) and Margot Park (May Hong), a young couple who live at Barbary Lane and deal with serious issues when the show begins – Jake was a lesbian woman who transitioned into a man, and is now realizing he is gay: Margot was Jake’s girlfriend before he transitioned but is still a lesbian, and doesn’t love Jake in his new body. Eventually, even though both Jake and Margot get forgotten for a good long while in the middle of the show, their storyline is sorted out: they break up peacefully, Margot finds a new girlfriend in DeDe Day (Barbara Garrick), and Jake decides to hold off on being in a relationship. The friendship between these two characters after they split is much more powerful than their romantic bond ever was, and it gives me hope that they’ll both be all right. Other highlights are Mateo (Dickie Hearts), DeDe’s exasperated butler; Ida (Caldwell Tidicue), the nightclub owner who shows up to help save Barbary Lane in the final episode; transgender actresses Jen Richards and Daniela Vega as a young Anna Madrigal and her nemesis Ysela, respectively; and Michelle Buteau as Brian’s sports-loving best friend Wrenita. These diverse characters have to work overtime to sell the premise and theme of the entire show, and each of them does it and, in the aforementioned instances, bring a little extra to the table too.

The show does have an issue with its plot, specifically towards the end when all the family-drama about Shawna’s parents and Michael’s relationship suddenly just goes away, allowing us to finally focus on the real story about Anna’s past and the person currently blackmailing and manipulating her: what started as a feel-good story about coming home to San Francisco takes an abrupt turn when Mary Ann and Shawna have to don disguises to follow a suspicious man, who turns out to be completely harmless and in fact helps the family on their hunt to find the real culprit: suspicion falls on Ysela, who’s still around and helping the homeless, but she proves innocent as well. Only after a bunch of misdirects involving a lot of random art do we finally reach the shocking conclusion that Claire Duncan, Shawna’s boring girlfriend, is actually the one behind all this. The grand finale, when Claire is wrestled into some pink feather-boa handcuffs after trying to demolish Barbary Lane and capture the event on film for her documentary about hypocrisy is…conflicting, to be sure. On the one hand, it’s a lot of fun, especially when Claire makes the mistake of telling the LGBTQ+ protesters that she’ll just edit them out of the footage, which provokes a chant of “We will not be erased!”. On the other hand, she’s like, what, a twenty-something year old living on the streets, and she somehow managed to convince an entire construction crew to help her demolish a building – and her motivation is…what, exactly? I also have to admit that, even though I loathed her character, I didn’t like the fact that she had to go back to her parents in the end, since they pretty obviously despised her with a passion. It’ll only lead to more trouble, is my guess.

Which leads us to our final topic: is there anything in the future for Tales of the City? Well, at the moment, no – with Anna Madrigal gone, the show has lost its most important character, and Barbary Lane has lost the one thing that really held all its occupants together. Without her, there’s not really a story to be told about Barbary Lane: but that doesn’t exclude other topics from being explored. Jake’s unresolved story, Michael and Ben’s on-and-off relationship, Shawna’s adventures beyond San Francisco, Claire’s future, DeDe’s butler, Twintertainment – there’s some stuff there that could be used to craft some pretty interesting stories, or even just a comedic miniseries or two. Garcia has already said he’d up for a spinoff about Jake and Margot.

What do you think? Would you like to see more Tales of the City, or do you think this is the definitive final chapter? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!